Hey! Listen To The New Tarot!

The beauty of good art-rock and pop is that it often presents the best of many musical worlds. For those of us who love a good vocal hook, catchy choruses, and a certain immediacy that pop offers but still crave some amount of edge and compositional twists and turns to keep things from getting too simplistic or repetitive, it’s the sonic equivalent of having our cake and eating it too. That mixture of familiar and the unexpected are the things that make acts like St. Vincent or Bent Knee at their best so utterly engrossing, addictive, and fun. And for those who are fans of either of those two aforementioned groups/artists, here’s another to add to your rotation who will surely not disappoint: The New Tarot.

Hey! Listen To VIRTA!

Though I dislike making sweeping musical generalizations here, I’m going to start off this post with a couple of them. If it can be said that many of the breakout acts in American jazz in recent years can be described as being heavily-indebted to hip-hop, r&b, and adjacent genres (think BADBADNOTGOOD, Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, and more), then a lot of the more impactful jazz exports from Europe, particularly northern Europe, have seemingly been more indebted to influences from the electronic/IDM sphere, post-rock, and more. You have the likes of GoGo Penguin in England, who have certainly been pushing the definition of what jazz really is with their blend of acoustic jazz instrumentation and influences with more classical-style playing and heavy electronic influences. Norway’s Jaga Jazzist is, of course, the current reigning champion of blending jazz with electronic music (from IDM to synthwave and more), post-rock, krautrock, and far more. And to that list of great European bands finding new and interesting ways to explore the world of jazz fusion you can now add Finland’s VIRTA, whose sophomore album Hurmos is one of the more unexpected and brilliant albums I’ve heard this year.

Unmetal Monday – 6/20/16 (Rachel Ana Dobken, Karmakanic, Classixx, clipping.)

Like the grand majority of modern metal fans, our tastes here at Heavy Blog are incredibly vast, with our 3X3s in each Playlist Update typically covering numerous genres and sometimes a different style in each square. While we have occasionally covered non-metal topics in past blog posts, we decided that a dedicated column was warranted in order to more completely recommend all of the music that we have been listening to. Unmetal Monday is a weekly column which covers noteworthy news, tracks and albums from outside the metal universe, and we encourage you all to share your favorite non-metal picks from the week in the comments. Head past the jump to dial down the distortion:

Unmetal Monday – 6/6/2016 (Cymbals Eat Guitars, Matt Corby, Neurotech)

Like the grand majority of modern metal fans, our tastes here at Heavy Blog are incredibly vast, with our 3X3s in each Playlist Update typically covering numerous genres and sometimes a different style in each square. While we have occasionally covered non-metal topics in past blog posts, we decided that a dedicated column was warranted in order to more completely recommend all of the music that we have been listening to. Unmetal Monday is a weekly column which covers noteworthy news, tracks and albums from outside the metal universe, and we encourage you all to share your favorite non-metal picks from the week in the comments. Head past the jump to dial down the distortion:

The Jazz Club Vol. 5 – Gateway Drugs: Jazz Albums for Metalheads

After we provided a general introduction for the genre in our last Jazz Club, Jimmy and I tossed around the idea of writing an adjacent piece catered specifically to metal fans. As with any genre, it’s easier to crack into the overall style with a handful of bands or albums that incorporate elements from genres that the listener is already familiar with. There are some pretty strong links between jazz and metal, which made it easy to select a well-rounded list of albums to recommend for metal fans who want their jazz to have an added edge. Some of these releases lean more towards one genre than the other, but they’re all excellent in their own right and provide a solid, metallic gateway into jazz.

Fire! Orchestra – Ritual (Can This Even Be Called Music?)

To understand what Fire! Orchestra is, we have to first know whence it came. And that would be the Fire! trio. Since 2009, Fire! is comprised of mastermind, saxophonist, and keyboardist Mats Gustafsson (who is widely known as a great jazz musician, especially for his improvisational style), bassist Johan Berthling, and drummer Andreas Werliin, both of whom are also known in the Swedish jazz scene for their work in other bands. As of today, they have released three full-length albums on their own, as well as two collaborations – one with Oren Ambarchi (In the Mouth a Hand), and one with Jim O’Rourke (Unreleased?) – plus a couple of EPs. They gained further recognition by playing fresh, inspired and energetic avant-jazz, getting better with each subsequent album, culminating with their 2016 release, She Sleeps, She Sleeps. Back in 2012, they had the idea of expanding their formula with the addition of an orchestra. Now with nineteen musicians instead of three, there was much more space for experimentation and variety, although there was already a lot of both in their simpler format.

Unmetal – Come Walk In Perturbator’s Uncanny Valley

The demand of a reviewer to come to an album with no preconceived notions is absurd. As humans, there’s no possible way for us to approach an album with a completely clean slate; we’ll always have our prejudices, expectations and ideas about how an album will sound like. The true demand from a good music journalist (and any journalist, if we’re being honest) is mental flexibility. The ability to discard preconceived notions in the face of the facts of the album is where true integrity lies; if you’re too possessive about them, you won’t be able to properly appreciate the works of art that you are faced with. More than that, these preconceived notions are useful tools, enabling us to relate and understand our fans, who have the same ideas and expectations. Thus, we need to learn how to connect and channel them, making sure that the tools don’t become the masters.

What in heaven’s name does this have to do with Perturbator? Well, this is where things get personal. You see, I had always liked Perturbator’s music but felt, at the same time, that there was more potential to be tapped. Dangerous Days is a great album but one which, I feel, could have been a fantastic album if more variation had been added into the breakneck rhythm’s. Lying dormant beneath the furious dedication to darkwave barrages, crouched in wait below the thrumming, never-ending, neon-tinged tracks, I could feel some sort of future flowering waiting for space to breathe. To be sure, there are plenty of ambient tracks on there but they felt tacked on, an afterthought rather than a true, organic part of the album. Sure, “Minuit” and “Hard Wired” existed but they were somehow lacking, not fully realized in their deviance.

Heavy Chat Is Heavy: Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool

There are many times in our little enclave of Heavy Blog staff and contributors where we have great private discussions and back-and-forths on a variety of topics that never see the light of day. Sometimes these chats and conversations eventually turn into fully-formed articles and essays, but more often than not they simply languish and remain a pile of unused potential. The sad fact is that most of us simply don’t have the time to write all the posts, thinkpieces, and more that we want to, especially not in any sort of timely way when it’s about a current news topic.

So in an attempt to bring more of these kinds of discussions to light in a more open-ended and casual format, we’ll occasionally be bringing you these group chats featuring different members of the Heavy Blog staff. If you’ve read any of our Jazz Club columns you’ll already be familiar with this format on this site. We don’t expect these to happen with any sort of scheduled regularity, but anytime there’s something interesting going on – news, new releases, some dumb internet bullshit – we think might be interesting to open up to discussion for you all, we’ll try to make it happen.